The sudden passing of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has left the city of Los Angeles in shock. Ben Golliver of the Washington Post was on the ground in L.A. to detail how the city is paying tribute to the memory of Bryant and his daughter, Gigi.
Golliver tells the story of how pastor Bob Bjerkaas stepped up to help people grieve following Sunday’s fatal helicopter crash, which was near Bjerkaas’ church:
Bjerkaas and his staff were unprepared for the impromptu vigil’s crowds, which were still present Tuesday afternoon, but they quickly made arrangements. Water, coffee and fruit were made available to mourners. The church opened its restrooms, provided power strips to recharge cellphones and welcomed grieving visitors for prayer services. Bjerkaas counseled fans who wept openly, and a makeshift shrine was erected near the roadside. “Rest in peace Kobe & Gigi” was written across a black Lakers hat that rested atop a pile of candles and purple and gold flowers.
“The Bible says we’re to practice hospitality,” said Bjerkaas, who has been at the church for 13 years. “That’s what we did. We prayed with people who were emotionally overwhelmed, in tears and in open grief. Sometimes all people need is a hug, a ‘God bless you,’ a short prayer and a cup of water. I’ve always believed more good is done in this life if you can get close to the ground and share life with the people around you.”
Outside of Staples Center, thousands have come to pay their respects to Bryant, leaving tokens of remembrance like flowers and jerseys:
At L.A. Live, the entertainment district outside Staples Center, the piles of tributes to the Bryants were overwhelming, stretching more than 40 feet wide and five feet deep in one spot. In addition to flowers and balloons, thousands of fans left handmade pieces of art, basketballs and jerseys.
One display spelled out “Kobe” and “Gigi” with dozens of candles. A nearby building displayed the names of all nine crash victims, and there were multiple walls bearing handwritten messages, like the one outside the Lakers’ facility. A handwritten poster read, “As you journey to outer space, may the angels help lead the way.” A line of fans shot baskets on a temporary hoop, yelling “Kobe!” as they released their shots.
We encourage you to read Golliver’s excellent piece in full.
The Portland Trail Blazers will visit Staples Center on Friday, the first game for the Lakers since Bryant’s passing. Their game on Tuesday with the Clippers was cancelled to allow teams to grieve.